02 September 2015
The after effects of a run-in with the prop of our dinghy. April, 2015
June 29, 2015
When I tell people we are cruising in Mexico, one of the most frequently asked questions (other than, "Is it safe?") is, "What about the medical care?" After a ride in an ambulance, one surgery, three days in the hospital and several follow-up appointments, I can tell you that my experience was nothing short of excellent.
San Javier Hospital was immaculate and the nurses attentive and efficient. I had my own room where Jay was welcomed to stay overnight. It was a little disconcerting, though, when I was wheeled in on a gurney and five attending nurses and doctors surrounded me, all speaking rapidly in Spanish. "Would somebody please tell me what's going on?" I asked, meekly.
Fortunately, the surgeon they called spoke decent English. Certainly much better English than our Spanish. And whatever Doctor Brambilla couldn't explain, he would bring in someone else to translate. Sometimes, he even pulled out a medical book to show us, in way of pictures, just exactly what was happening to my leg.
He showed us which muscle in my calf was severed 50%. He explained how the propeller shaved two separate bones and damaged a tendon. Despite the severities of my injuries, he felt my prognosis for a full recovery was good.
Doctor Brambilla is an excellent doctor and the surgery went well. He is a warm, gentle soul, who showed compassion for me every step of the way. His kindness was so genuine that as Jay and I said goodbye, we felt like we were losing a friend.
The days that followed the accident were trying. Probably more so for Jay than for me. First of all, imagine what he was feeling. He watched the entire event from Cadenza, unable to help me. He left the boat with a few of my extra clothes and his wallet. Nothing else. Once we arrived at the hospital and he knew I was in good hands - and not realizing I would have to stay in the hospital for several days - Jay left to figure out, what next?
The logistics were complicated. It was now the middle of April and nearing the end of our sailing season. We were scheduled to leave Mexico on the 28th, two weeks away. In the meantime, where would I stay? I was incapbable of getting up on the boat and even if I could, how would I manage day to day living on the boat with my leg? (As I would be in a half/cast for almost a month.)
Fortunately, we had been keeping our boat docked at Paradise Village Marina only a short walking distance from the hospital. Jay headed there first; maybe to get some comfort from friends, maybe out of habit. But once he got to the gate, he realized, he didn't have his key. He stood there for a few minutes, generally confused (I think he was still in some sort of mild shock.), when finally, someone opened the gate and he headed for our slip. But the slip was empty! He stopped short. "Oh, right," he thought to himself, "Cadenza is at anchor in La Cruz. Hmm..."
Our friends, Don and Linda, were on their boat in the next slip over and he knocked on the hull of Iron Rose. "Hello?" Linda stuck her head out and with one look at Jay, knew something was wrong.
Thank God for good friends.
Linda and Don invited him in and listened as he told them the story. Then they proceeded to offer their help. Don lent Jay his gate key and gave him his cell phone so that Jay could call Linda's phone if he needed anything. After a drink and a few hugs to calm his nerves, Jay headed for the hotel next door, Paradise Village Resort and Spa. They had decided the best answer was to stay in the hotel for the next couple of weeks until the flight home.
"May I have your ID sir?" The hotel clerk asked Jay. She watched as he fumbled through his wallet and pulled out his driver's license. Jay's clothes were still wet. His shirt was stained with blood. His hair was disheveled and his demeanor confused. He had a Massachusetts driver's license and a credit card with a California address. Around his neck he wore the marina gate key and ID with the name and photo of our friend, Don Anderson. Naturally she was suspicious.
After several minutes of interrogation, Jay was able to convince the clerk that he was, indeed, legitimate, that his wife was currently in the emergency room, (hence the wet clothes stained with blood) and once she was released from the hospital, they both would be in need of a room. He signed the papers, put out his arm for the all-important wristband (everyone who stays at The Paradise Village Resort and Spa must display their wristband at all times), and was served his room key.
Next, it was back to the hospital to see how I was fairing.
It was then that he found out that I would be having surgery and likely to be admitted for at least one night. He called the hotel to cancel the reservation. But no, the all-important wristband had to be cut off by the hotel clerk and only the hotel clerk. So, once again, back to the hotel. Then, back to the hospital to wait for the surgeon and his team.
Dr. Brambilla explained that I couldn't have surgery for several more hours since I had eaten lunch around 1:00 pm that day. Nor could I have any anesthesia until it was time for surgery. (That made for a very painful moment when the nurse cleaned out my wounds.) Meanwhile, he called in his own surgical team; an anesthesiologist and a sweet, elderly nurse were among them. The nurse came in on a cane and she wobbled up to me and introduced herself. She emitted a tenderness that made me feel at ease and I immediately trusted her. "You take care of me." I said as they wheeled me into surgery. She nodded and smiled.
Two days and eight thousand dollars later (Our medical insurance has yet to acknowledge the emergency. In fact, three months later we are still fighting for reimbursement.), Jay wheeled me out of San Javier Hospital and into The Paradise Village Resort and Spa where we had a comfortable room on the first floor with two queen-size beds, a sitting area, a kitchenette, a bathroom and a small porch. And most important of all, air conditioning. This would be home for the next two and a half weeks.
Now it was up to Jay to take care of everything. I was in a cast and virtually incapable of doing anything for myself. He helped me to the bathroom, to shower and to dress. He went shopping for our food, cooked meals and cleaned up the dishes. He helped me to the porch each morning so I would have a change of view. He took me for a walk in my wheelchair each evening to get some fresh air. During the day, he went down to the boat to begin the long project of putting her to bed for the summer.
(Cadenza was now safely in her slip in the marina next to the hotel. Jay and our friend, Ed, had retrieved her the day after my surgery. As we had left in a hurry, the hatches were wide open and not one thing was missing. Someone by the name of T-Sarge had retrieved our runaway dinghy and tied it up to the boat. Another good Samaritan/cruiser had turned on our anchor light the night before. We were, and are, greatly indebted to the cruising community of La Cruz in April of 2015; the two men from the sv/Priority who helped Jay and me get to the ambulance and the many eyes that kept a silent watch over Cadenza while we were gone.)
Putting Cadenza to bed included so many things like taking down sails, disabling electronics and removing everything from topsides and storing it below. He had to rig up shade awnings, empty gas cans and gerry jugs, deflate kayaks, disconnect propane and connect fans and dehumidifiers. Then there was cleaning out the food closets, the refrigerator and freezer. There were clothes to pack and important paper documents to be collected and brought home. It is a big job for two, let alone one.
Thank God for good friends.
Ed helped Jay with the sails. Barb emptied our fridge and food cabinets while I sat in my wheelchair on the dock, giving directions. She packed my clothes. She helped cook meals and even did our wash. Linda stopped by the hotel and surprised me with a milkshake. I was informed that milkshakes cure all ailments. Steve and Janny came by and prayed with me for my recovery. Our friend, Jay, a retired surgeon, kept an eye on my progress. And on a couple of nights, we all went out to the palapa outside the hotel - me in my wheelchair - and had a barbecue pot luck dinner. Fresh air, good food and great company did wonders for my state of mind.
After three follow-up appointments with the doctor, I was ready to fly home. (With the knowledge that I would need a skin graft when we arrived in the states.) But I was still in a cast and wheelchair bound. Now the challenge was for Jay to get me and all our luggage through three airports and on and off two planes. And in the Dallas airport, we had miles to traverse to go through customs. Fortunately, the airlines was a big help, and we had assistance all along the way.
We arrived in Boston at one a.m. where my daughter, Talia, and her boyfriend, Dan, picked us up and took us to their home for the night as we still had a two-hour drive and a ferry ride to get to Martha's Vineyard. We would make that journey the following day.
Imagine this. Arriving home to a house that had been closed-up for the winter but for some remodeling construction. All the curtains had been taken down as we had new windows installed. They were unfinished and had to be sanded and sealed with polyurethane. Twenty-two windows and a job that we had originally planned to do together, was now left to Jay, alone. One bedroom had a new ceiling with two holes for skylights that were waiting for the new roof to be installed, as well as another hole in the kitchen for yet one more skylight. Two of our three bathrooms were in various stages of upgrade and unusable. A new floor that was installed had to be reinstalled because there was an error. Sheets and towels had to be washed. Beds had to be made. There was no food in the refrigerator. Dishes had to be taken out of the cupboards and cleaned. With the house in disarray, there was so much to do.... And then there was me - in a wheelchair.
Thank God for family.
Talia and Dan both took several days off and came with us to the vineyard, helping me onto the ferry and into the car; helping Jay open up and clean the house; wash the sheets and towels and make the beds. It was quite the project and we were lucky to have their help.
Now home, we had to see a plastic surgeon. The skin over the wound where my muscle had been cut had died and I would need another surgery for a skin graft. Martha's Vineyard is an island where it is almost impossible to see a doctor in the same week you make an appointment. Knowing this, I had started the search while still in Mexico and already had an appointment in place.
Dr. Montilla saw my injury and gave his prognosis: I needed a skin graft (this we knew); the donor site would be my lower stomach; it may take, it may not; if my body did accept this new skin it would be darker, uneven and would most likely be concave. For the rest of my life, I would have to slather sunblock over the scars or they would turn even darker. Basically, he was telling me, if I was lucky enough that the skin graft took, it would be ugly. I smiled and said, "I don't care. I have my leg."
The surgery was scheduled on the mainland at UMass General, Worchester, a division of Umass General in Boston. This facility was the burn unit that specialized in plastic surgery. This meant another ferry trip and two-hour drive to Framingham where Talia and Dan housed us for another couple of nights. The out-patient surgery went well and we headed back to the vineyard, this time with our friend Gail, from Wakefield.
Again, thank God for good friends. Gail stayed with us for several days, cleaning cupboards, cooking and helping in any way she could. I don't have a sister, but I imagine if I did, she would be like Gail.
It is now September 2, 2015, almost five months since the accident. I am walking, sailing, riding bikes, even doing yoga. My leg is not yet 100% and there is still some discomfort. I am told it could take six months to a year for a full recovery. That is okay with me. I have my leg and it works. I have my life. I am most grateful.